Iron-deficiency anaemia and physical performance in adolescent girls from different ethnic backgrounds

Br J Nutr. 1994 Sep;72(3):427-33. doi: 10.1079/bjn19940044.


One hundred and fourteen 11-14-year-old schoolgirls from Wembley, Middlesex, were assessed for Fe status (haemoglobin (Hb), packed cell volume and mean corpuscular Hb concentration, height, weight, eating habits, and ethnic origin, and undertook a step test to assess physical performance. Overall, 20% of girls had Hb less than 120 g/l, ranging from 11% in White girls to 22-25% in girls of Asian origin. Prevalence of low Hb was 20% in vegetarians, higher in White vegetarians compared with non-vegetarians (23 v. 4%), but lower in the Indian vegetarians compared with non-vegetarians (17 v. 32%). Low Hb was present in 25% of girls who had tried to lose weight in the previous year, and was more common in girls from manual social class backgrounds than non-manual (24 v. 10%). At the start of the step test the twenty-three girls with low Hb had heart rates similar to those with normal Hb, but heart rates in the low Hb group were significantly elevated immediately after the step test, and still significantly elevated 1 min later. The present results confirm the findings of a previous study in White girls, and suggest that physical performance may be compromised at mild levels of anaemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / blood
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / ethnology*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Diet, Vegetarian
  • Erythrocyte Indices
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobins / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Social Class


  • Hemoglobins